Amanda Betts – Staff Writer
CLARION, Pa.- For the latest installment in the Mary L. Seifert Cultural Series, the Clarion University Allies organization chose to show the Oscar-nominated film “The Danish Girl,” starring Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander.
The event was held in the Suites on Main North Movie Theater at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 11.
Set in 1920s Copenhagen, Denmark, this film was based on the true story of Lili Elbe, one the first recipients of gender reassignment surgery. Before her transition, Elbe was a painter by the name of Einar Wegener, but after successfully completing her transition, Elbe legally changed her name and stopped painting.
Redmayne’s portrayal of the notable character sparked some controversy because the actor himself is not transgender, but the film was nominated for four Academy Awards in 2016.
Allies member Ian Dewey commented on the controversy, saying he felt that Redmayne was the right choice for the role. While other parts of this year’s Seifert Series have touched on a lack of representation of LGBTQ individuals, Dewey felt that hiring a transgender actress could also have been seen as insensitive.
“Having to de-transition would probably be traumatizing, so I completely understand them casting Eddie Redmayne in the role,” Dewey explained.
Although some parts of the film do not directly to connect to how life as a transgender person is today, the overall struggles Elbe faced are still seen as relevant. Perhaps most different, much progress has been made in relation to the surgeries themselves.
At the time of Elbe’s transition, doctors were only performing surgeries on men transitioning to women. Now, both men and women can receive sexual reassignment surgery, and the procedures themselves are much safer.
Social treatment of transgender people is sometimes just as negative. According to Dewey, a lot of progress has been made in those areas as well, but transgender people still face prejudices in their daily life.
Dewey also explained that he feels progress is shown in the fact that a film about transgenderism was widely popular. Dewey is also impressed by the recent changes that have been made specifically at Clarion University regarding the acceptance of transgender students.
With the implication of all-gender restrooms and Clarion’s utilization of the Lavender Graduation ceremony, Dewey feels the university is taking important steps in making all students feel welcome and safe being their true selves.
Clarion has also made changes to allow for students to change their preferred names: modifying student IDs, documents and class lists.
“I feel validated because I’m hearing my name and my pronouns,” Dewey said.
“It’s important for kids to grow up with knowledge of all kinds of people,” he said. “When I was growing up, there was no representation, and it’s so important for kids to have that.”
The next and final event in the Mary L. Seifert Cultural Series this spring is a presentation from Alison Bechdel, author of the best-selling book “Fun Home.” This event will be hosted Wednesday, April 19, at 7 p.m. in Hart Chapel. For students interested in joining the Clarion University Allies, general meetings take place in Harvey 124 every Monday at 6 p.m.